Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Shakespeare al fresco

Bruce Barton (downstage right) as Leontes in Hudson
Warehouse's A WINTER'S TALE

 Not every play by Shakespeare is a gem. This past weekend I saw performances of two of the Bard's lesser works - my friend Bruce Barton was Leontes in WINTER'S TALE and Amanda Thickpenny was Sebastian in TWO GENTLEMEN FROM VERONA.

I have much more tolerance for liberties taken for his lesser work than I do for messing with HAMLET for instance, and both these productions did some inspired work.

Amanda Thickpenny (on the grass) as Sebastian in
Hip to Hipt Theater Company's

WINTER'S TALE went to town with the bit about the bear. The stage direction "exit, pursued by a bear" in the middle of the play is famous because stage directions are so rarely included in Shakespeare's plays. So they had a member of the Hudson Warehouse dress in a bear suit, entering stage left - she stopped center stage, lifted up the bear head so we could see her face and said: "exit pursued by a bear" and then exit, stage right. I thought that was brilliant.

More gruesomely, during the following scene various body parts flew across the stage to represent the poor character being eaten by the bear.

And Bruce was very good, of course.

TWO GENTLEMEN by Hip to Hip Theater Company was done in a commedia dell arte mode, very stylized, but it did very well for the play. My favorite moment was when Julia, who had been running around disguised as a boy (the first of many in Shakespeare's plays) with her long hair under her cap, suddenly whips off her hat and lets her hair down, and all the characters on stage go "ooh!" as if utterly amazed that this boy should suddenly turn into a woman. It was really funny and the audience got a huge kick out of it. Amanda played several roles, all with great style and panache.

Nice work all.